Review: 'Downton Abbey: A New Era' a Spring Blockbuster Worthy Of All The Fanfare

by JC Alvarez

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday May 20, 2022

'Downton Abbey: A New Era'
'Downton Abbey: A New Era'  (Source:Focus Features)

Amidst the bluster, over-the-top explosions, and multiversal madness of the blockbuster season, it's nice to be able to slow things down to a reasonable pace and get transported back in time to visit some old friends in "Downton Abbey: A New Era." Everyone's favorite aristocrats are back, as the Dowager Countess's past revelation opens another chapter in this period epic.

Life is full of new beginnings, and just as many endings; as "Downton Abbey: A New Era" opens up, it's clear that a lot has happened in the lives of The Crawleys. Since we last looked in on them, when the King and Queen of England came to grace the estate with their presence, the family is about to receive another type of royalty into their hallowed halls: A film crew asks to shoot a movie at Downton Abbey. This sparks all kinds of controversy, but it's exciting nonetheless as Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) sees it as an opportunity to help restore the abbey to its former glory.

At the same time, the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Dame Maggie Smith) has been gifted a fabulous villa in the South of France by a mysterious figure from her past. What could it all mean, especially as the ailing Dowager seeks to put all of her, and her family's, affairs in order for the inevitable? Robert (Hugh Bonneville) is confounded, and wonders if there is something about his legacy that is in doubt, unaware that his wife, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), is harboring a secret of her own. Fellowes provides a wonderful bit of escapism, setting the story in two stages: The Abbey and France.

Director Simon Curtis expertly fully immerses the audience back in the world of "Downton Abbey," with a spectacular opening act that gives us glimpses into how time has passed in the lives of both the Crawleys and their staff. John and Anna (Brendan Coyle and Joanne Froggatt) have a child of their own; Daisy and Andrew (Sophie McShera and Michael Fox) are married and living on the farm with Mr. Mason (Paul Copley), who is still pining after Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol); and Mister Barrow (Robert James-Collier) has been promoted to butler.

On the upside, Mary is settled into her role running Downton in her father's stead, as Edith (Laura Carmichael) considers returning to a professional career as a journalist, taking a chance on visiting the South of France and learning more about her grandmother's mysterious past. With her husband away most of the time, Mary throws herself into the business at hand, lending her support to the handsome film director, played by Hugh Dancy, who brings two of the era's biggest film stars into the mix (played by Dominic West and Laura Haddock) and opens the door for an entirely new journey of discovery.

The film is full of the spontaneous warmth, humor, and love that we've come to revere from "Downton Abbey," but "A New Era" properly signals that time has moved on. It is a proper narrative signaling new beginnings and several endings, but it also paves the way for new things to come: Tom (Allen Leech) and Lucy (Tuppence Middleton) represent the next generation, and the future that is still yet to be written. "Downton Abbey: A New Era" is a refreshing embrace for the fans, but also a very welcome breath of fresh air.

A summer blockbuster worthy of all the fanfare that comes with any franchise favorite.

"Downton Abbey: A New Era" opens in theaters May 20.

Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".